The COVID-19 pandemic. Elections around the world. 2020 is a busy year for fact checkers.
More than 50,000 new fact checks appeared on Google Search over the past year, and all of those fact checks received more than 2.4 billion impressions on Search in that time period.
There is a growing body of external research suggesting fact checking can help fight lying.
In a recent report supported by the Google News Initiative published today, researchers Ethan Porter, Thomas Wood, and Yamil Velez found that fact-checking corrections can reduce the effect of misinformation on public confidence around the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, fact checking is not for professionals only. Every day, people look for evidence to confirm or refute information that they doubt. Over the past 12 months, a Google Search for the phrase “is it true that…” (‘is it true …’) has been higher than “how to make bread…” (‘how to make bread’), and it’s been very interesting considering the how-to search making your own sourdough bread at home also rose significantly last year. Searches for “is it true …” hit an all-time high worldwide in October 2020.
With that in mind, as well as to welcome International Fact Check Day on April 2, here are five simple tips to help you ask the right questions so you can better identify misinformation on the internet, as quoted from the official Google statement:
1. Find out more about the source
Have you come across a shocking article or story from a website that you’ve never heard of? First, check whether the source is valid. After searching for the source, you can tap the menu icon next to the source to learn more about the results (currently only available in English in the United States).
In the example above, see how to learn more about the search results you find on the internet. It turns out that news sites about robots on Mars do not provide accurate information about the planet Mars itself.
Clicking on the result will give you information about the site in the “About this result” section, but we recommend that you look elsewhere for the information. You can find more information about a site by asking Google to remove search results from the domain in question. For example, if you want to find information about YouTube from other sites, you can ask Google to remove search results from the youtube.com domain. The search query looks like this: about youtube -site: youtube.com. If you want to narrow your search further, find more tips on our support page.
2. Check whether the image is used in the correct context
The saying goes, one picture can mean 1,000 words. However, images can also be taken out of context or edited to mislead the viewer. You can search using an image by right-clicking on the image or photo, then clicking “Search for this image on Google.” You can also do this on your phone by touching and holding the image. This action will search for the image and check if it has ever appeared on the internet and in what context, so that you can know if the meaning of the image has been changed from the original.
See how images are used in context on the internet. You can search using an image by right-clicking the photo and selecting “Search This Image on Google”. This is a simulation example to illustrate how this product works and not the actual experience.
3. View news coverage.
Don’t just stick to one source. See how (and if) other news sites are reporting on the same event so you can see the big picture. Switch to news mode or search for a topic at news.google.com. Make sure to click “Full Coverage” if this option is available.
Looking for news that the Earth has been visited by aliens? In the example above, you could click to see Full Coverage on a topic, and see other news sites that cover it as well. The GIF image in this example is only a simulation and not the full experience of the product.
4. Ask the fact checker
The fact checker may have discussed the weird stories you got from other people or chat groups, so you can tell the truth. Try checking for suspicious topics in Fact Check Explorer, which collects more than 100,000 verified information from credible news publishers around the world, or Cekfakta.com which is a collaboration of 24 Indonesian news editors formed in 2018.
In this example simulation, see how you can use Fact Check Explorer to see if an online claim is fact-checked. This is a demonstration of how the product works and not a full experience.
5. Use Google Maps, Earth, or Street View to verify its location
Fake stories about events that took place far away can spread quickly due to our lack of understanding of their location. If you want to know if a photo was actually taken from the claimed location, try checking it in Google Earth or seeing Street View’s location on Google Maps.
Let’s say a friend sends you an article that Bigfoot is seen walking on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. To check the truth, you can browse the Eiffel Tower in Street View to make sure that there is not a big red cowboy hat at the top of the tower (like the one in Paris, Texas). If that part is not correct, it could be that the contents of the article are also suspicious.
In this example, you can see how to distinguish a real Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, and a mock tower in Paris, Texas. This example is only a demonstration and not the full experience of the product.